Pearl River wins OT thriller at Delta in season finale
MOORHEAD — Will Lang looked on as the Pearl River bus cruised by a couple on the side of Highway 49 West in Inverness frantically waving a homemade sign that read ROLL RIVER ROLL.
“I’m home,” he thought, just minutes away from Mississippi Delta’s campus — the site of his last heroic moment.
Several hours later Lang (Inverness; Indianola Academy) tried to peer out from the bottom of a maroon-and-gold dog pile to catch a glimpse of those same fans after beating the Trojans 24-21 in overtime with a 29-yard field goal.
Pearl River (2-7) built an early 21-0 lead Saturday afternoon but the Trojans (3-6) slowly chipped away at the visitor’s lead, eventually sending the season finale to overtime.
After having seen PRCC block MDCC’s similar attempt a possession before, Lang was determined not to meet the same fate.
As the Wildcats set up for the 29-yarder, Lang cleared his mind, closed his eyes and exhaled.
“It’s something we practice every week, kicking in pressure situations,” Lang said, with a handful of friends and family waiting to celebrate. “Obviously it’s a nerve-wracking thing, but you just have to push through it, slow everything down and hope it all comes together.
“We had a good snap, a good hold, a good kick and great protection up front. That’s what we needed … I knew it was good. I picked my head up after everybody got loud and just took off running.”
The three-point victory gave the Wildcats something to savor heading into the offseason.
“These sophomores played their butts off. We’ve been through a lot with this group, but we’ve won two of our last three so to see them go out with a win is a good thing,” PRCC coach Ted Egger said. “It doesn’t matter to me how we get them, a win is a win.
“It’s a good way for these sophomores to go out and a good way for us to go into 2019.”
The Wildcats came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, scoring on their first two possessions.
With Cooper Callis (Jackson, Mo.; Jackson) leading the offense, the freshman quarterback led the ‘Cats on a 13-play, 81-yard drive that was punctuated by a 1-yard touchdown run from Ron Thompson (Bassfield).
After the defense held the Trojans to a three-and-out, the offense went back to work. The Wildcats had an 89-yard touchdown from Cooper Callis to K.J. Breland (Brooklyn; Forrest County AHS) wiped out due to a flag, but Callis was determined to get PRCC back in the end zone. Facing a third-and-15, Callis rolled to his left and lofted a ball into the corner of the end zone to Tyler Polk (St. Martin).
Pearl River tight end Donavon Hickman finds his way into the end zone to complete a 3-yard touchdown connection from Cooper Callis during Saturday's 24-21 win at Mississippi Delta. (JUCOWeekly.org)
“It was a little frustrating because we just had a touchdown called back, but I had confidence we were going to score,” Callis said. “I saw a guy running with Polk, but I knew he’s so quick with breakaway speed that if I put it in a spot he’d run under it and get it and that’s exactly what he did.”
The Wildcats extended their lead to 21-0 late in the half when Callis connected with Donavon Hickman on a 3-yard score.
Although the defense gave up 21 second-half points to allow overtime, the unit came up with multiple big plays throughout the contest.
Among the big plays were a Sirvares Snow (Newton) interception, a fumble recovery in the defensive end zone by Kyron Norwood (Hattiesburg; Forrest County AHS) and another fumble recovery by Reggie Williams (Hattiesburg).
Of course the biggest defensive play came in overtime. The Trojans worked their way down to PRCC’s 2, but a fumbled snap set MDCC all the way back to the 15, setting up the first kick of overtime. On the snap, PRCC’s line, let by GiNarious Johnson (Gulfport) got a strong push, driving the Trojan protectors back into the kicker’s path. The block set up Lang’s winner six plays later.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet thing,” Lang said, “but to end my college career in a way like that, you couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Callis had a career day for PRCC, completing 25 of 42 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns. He spread the ball around, connecting with a season-high eight different receivers. Polk led PRCC with six receptions for 90 yards and a score. Kiante Payton (Brandon) caught six passes for 87 yards. Breland was third on the team with five receptions for 85 yards.
ONE OF THE BEST
Thompson finished among PRCC’s best with 83 yards rushing on 23 carries. His 913 yards this year rank sixth for single-season Wildcat performances. His 1,396 career yards are also sixth.
Tyrique McAfee completed 11 of 26 passes for 152 yards and rushed for 71 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown. Patrick Jackson rushed for 67 yards with touchdown runs of 1 and 3 yards.
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